TRON: Legacy needs a CLU, gets a “journey without a goal”

I wanted to like this movie.  I have such fond memories of the original TRON.  It was ahead of its time in many ways back then, and probably a little cheesy too…  It was wrapped up in religion a bit, which wasn’t bad— it gave programs a “culture,” a “faith.”  TRON: Legacy has kept up with the digital explosion in movies and taken it to grand heights, but it abandoned good writing and good characters along the way.  I found it hard not to roll my eyes, and even with such great visuals, found myself bored during the last quarter of the film.  How did they fumble such a beautiful opportunity?  I don’t know, but I have some ideas.  I offer these up for consideration.  I’m no Roger Ebert (but I’m a huge fan, Roger) but I think most critics have already agreed that the plot lacks something. The original TRON received 69% on the tomatometer from Rotten Tomatoes, the new Tron 49%.  Though, oddly the audience seems to like the second one more.  Critics agreed the light show and “glitter” are fun, and who can beat that soundtrack?  I loved the light show, the competitions, the music, but the plot is an epic fail.

1.  Fast train to TRONville.  No set-up.  I can hear the producers saying to the writers: “get him on the grid as fast as possible.”  The opening sequence of the movie is funny, but completely ignorable, as its goal is to barely set up why Sam Flynn goes into the grid.  There’s no extraneous or unnecessary character-building.  It’s broad strokes for Sam’s character: “rebel wounded son on bike”.  For Bruce Boxleitner, it’s “old partner who still works for firm.”

The break-in sequence: It’s so eeeeasy to break into a major technology company.  They have one security guard, cameras that just blink off when you shine light at them (note to self when I’m breaking into Microsoft: bring penlight), they have a stack of computer towers and Sam knows just which one to tap into (because his father was the computer genius, ergo the son is a natch), and his escape onto the roof walking along a handy crane (who leaves these here??) that he will leap off of for cinematic effect.  Give that man a Batman suit!   I found it completely unrealistic; no obstacles means that he could do this more often and doesn’t…. why?  No obstacles means no tension.  No tension means no possibility for anything else happening.  What does it tell us?  He’s a rebel. Does he have a job?  A girlfriend?  A life?  We don’t know.

Boxleitner comes into Sam’s garage in the Under Bridge District, throws him a quarter and says for him to go visit the old arcade to find out who sent him a page nearly 20 years later!  I keep my old cell phone in a drawer, but I don’t keep it charged…. but then I’m not expecting Jeff Bridges to contact me.

Sam drives to the old arcade in the Standard Slum District, void of people, where expensive nostalgic games are all preserved and ready to be turned back on after twenty years.  No one’s broken in!  And if I’m Sam, I want to tip toe in and not make a noise to alert everyone else that something’s happening in this place.  So I’ll turn on the 1980s music full blast—Journey’s so quiet when you’re breaking into an old arcade in the slum…. and I’ll use that quarter that Boxleitner threw me.

2. The Fumble of Dropped Character Development:  Sam Flynn played by Garrett Hedland is a swaggering one-note actor in this piece.  I’m gonna say he was handed a nothing script to work with because Jeff Bridges is also flat in this movie and I’m sure in True Grit and his oscar-piece Crazy Heart he shines BECAUSE of a good script.  But the writers hand NOTHING to Garrett and Jeff.  The actors should have gone rogue and come up with better dialogue on the spot.  This has the idea of the TEMPEST: complete with marooned on an “island” Prospero, Caliban who has threatened to take over the island, Tron, the Ariel under control of another master, and Miranda, the good innocent woman who’s been reading Dostoyevsky and something a bit ironic, “Journey Without a Goal”–the tantric wisdom of Buddha….  which could be a summation of this movie.

Sam is about to meet his father that he LOVED and deeply missed, after 20 years.  He’s thrown into a GAME, where he doesn’t know what’s going on, and he’s not the least bit thrown.  But neither is Cora when she’s brought into the real world either.  SO much potential for lost father/son interactions.  See Frequency for the same motif done SO much better.  Where is the part of the script that builds the father/son relationship?  Is it those lousy beach scenes that come in as silent flashbacks?  Eek.  That’s it? Their reunion is just dumb.  Worst reunion ever because you don’t do anything with it.

3.  Missed Plot moments: When Sam meets CLU, it would have been so much better to have CLU fool him for awhile.  He could have taunted Kevin with his own son: see Hook for the use of this motif.  But that idea’s tossed away.

Why has Kevin Flynn sat PASSIVE for twenty years?  His own son has caused irreparable damage to a computer company in one night.  Kevin Flynn brought down Master Control.  What the hell?  This is NO excuse for inactivity.   Oops the portal disappeared; I’m trapped and I might as well live as a zen refugee off the grid….  with my honey, Cora….  Kevin shows us at the end that he has the ability to reprogram every single program, and by touching floors and walls, he can change the nature of situations….but no.  We’re reserving that power for the END of the movie.  (shudder of disbelief)  I don’t buy the “if I fight him, CLU gets stronger” excuse.

TRON reprogrammed:  you can’t thrown in a twist like this without a set up, or more clues…. and certainly you can’t have TRON decide to switch sides in time for the final moment of the battle to knock CLU on his ass.  Epic Deus Ex Machina.

Zeus was over-the-top–but had potential.  Who knew what Zeus looked like?  Sam didn’t.  Sam could have been fooled by anyone.  Why didn’t the writers milk this?  There’s even a blatant Casablanca reference here to resonate and honor that film, but Humphrey Bogart’s character was much more complex…. See Casablanca.

Kevin is UPSET at his son for trying to rescue him because he’s ruining “his zen thing”??— a non-linear, new POV, could have turned this into an intriguing concept (in fact, Flynn’s flashbacks might have made a better movie).  The Zen in the face of the inevitable would have been a great sequel:  TRON: Zen.  But here it makes Kevin Flynn look like a jerk.

4.  Monologuing on the Slow Train. So Flynn puts the portal outside the city but builds a GIANT TRAIN to it.  The TRAIN goes slower than any other vehicle on the whole grid.  This is to contain the forty minutes of monologuing that the three main good characters do.  It contains the only moment of actual real dialogue between Flynn and Flynn, but it’s so relaxed as if the whole movie is actually over.  Tension drops to NOTHING.  Characters could have made it faster to the portal in the dunebuggy….  I was bored out of my mind during this sequence.  Nothing is happening.  Characters are just chatting…. infodumps abound.  See Star Wars with how you chat on a flight to keep the tension (and don’t tell me they didn’t check out Star Wars when they created the gun turret at the rear end of the plane….)

5.  Monologuing in front of your Army. Hey, three good characters are out in the world running around causing mischief, but I, as the big villain, am going to give a motivational speech to my Army….of “programmed” soldiers who don’t need motivation: they have programming.  I could lose everything if they beat me to the portal, or if they cause mischief, but I’m oblivious because I’m doing EPIC monologuing…

6.  Journey without a goal. If the goal was to rescue the Dad, the movie actually fails.  Sam doesn’t seem to mind; he just lets his dad go.  We always knew though that because CLU and Kevin were made from the same person/program, that they would have to be “reintegrated” and that “the re-integrating would kill Kevin”—why?  Because it’s necessary to the plot.  Though Kevin is a flesh and blood person, and CLU is a program—why they would have to be reintegrated is beyond me.  In fact, it seemed beyond them too—-they were going to go into the portal with Kevin and leave CLU behind.  So much for integrating.

7.  Where is the COMPUTER in this TRON? The first TRON was about being inside of a game, or inside a computer, living life as a program.  This movie was made 18 years after the first one, computers have blown us away!  They are amazing!  They have changed so much.  I know, this is TRON; he’s trapped in an old server.  Still….  where is the computer language?  Where is the metaphor?  Where is the world-building that was a staple for TRON?  Sam Flynn might have just transported to Iceland for all we know?  The Matrix had more world-building (of course, it had excellent world building).  They need to map out what is and isn’t possible in a computerized life.   How does a USER have blood in the game?  How does a suckling pig end up in the game?  How does a flesh and blood person survive inside a digital world without FOOD?  Water?  It doesn’t matter…. There’s no WORLD-BUILDING this time, not like they did with TRON.  They cannibalized TRON, the movie, to get a “world” and then did nothing to it.   See Tron for a movie on how to deal with people suddenly pulled into a computer.

So, at the end, Sam, upon coming back into the real world, does what should have been done at the Beginning of Sam’s orphaning: make Bruce Boxleitner CEO of the company.  Why wasn’t he?  And he goes off with the girl to see a sunrise.

On a larger note, I’m disturbed by the industry’s mistaken belief that if they throw a younger actor into an 80s blockbuster, complete with the old gang, they can pass the torch to a new audience, and cash in on some of that mojo.  Shia LeBoeuf can’t act and shouldn’t have been let inside an Indiana Jones–but it’s this mentality in Hollywood that they can insert a younger, hotter actor into a formula that works.  My memo to Hollywood.  Stop it.  Get creative.  Create plots.  Create stories.  Create Characters that twenty years from now Hollywood will want to recycle and re-invent.  See Abrams’ Star Trek for a well done way to do this.  The bottom line, writers, is see better movies.  Copy their skills, not their backdrops.

I was entertained during the competition sequences, during the special effects, and wished all the actors, if they had nothing interesting to say, had kept their mouths shut.  At least then, it could have been a nice music video.  I’m going to watch True Grit now and see what Jeff Bridges can do with a script.  What if the Coen Brothers had done TRON??  Imagine the beauty…..

17 thoughts on “TRON: Legacy needs a CLU, gets a “journey without a goal”

  1. MasterControl April 5, 2011 / 9:59

    Amen.

  2. Pom April 13, 2011 / 9:59

    I have similar criticism of some of the convenient plots devices like “re-intergration” and lack of character building but I think these are the right choices for the success of the movie. It’s easy to forget that this is Disney after all because of the darker look but it was meant to serve that core audience despite the fact that it had a “Legacy” (couldn’t resist) audience as well. This was really TRON 1.5 and not two because of the 20 gap. As for the geek speak and specifics of the computer world, I feel that there are other movies that already do that like the Matrix and where they strived to recreate the real world, TRON chose to fill the screen with a whole different one. On that level they where overwhelmingly successful with the art, set, costume, and sound design that gave us something we’ve never seen before.

    Plot point: Why didn’t CLU use sam more? He did by threatening his life by throwing him in the light cycle battle. If he died, that might have angered FLYNN to seek revenge and make him come to him.

    Flyn and TRON brought down the MCP. w/o TRON, FLYNN would have died pretty easily.

    The ruining ZEN thing was a nice father-son moment that speaks to the wisdom of the old and enthusiasm of youth. Sam was there to raise hell as his father once did to ENCOM. It show a passing of the torch.

    TRON used 2 disks in when protecting FLYNN, he also has a T logo on his neck as did Rinzler. I agree that TRON need more screen time an better reason to change back, perhaps something that Sam does on the Aircraft carrier tower.

    I only wish that Kevin would have displayed more powers then an elevator repair man and the ability sucking in large volumes of virtual air.

  3. chris September 25, 2011 / 9:59

    boxlietners character threw him the keys……bridges character threw him the quarter. “Sam” was the majority shareholder in a computer oriented mega company. he had the resources to get in easily, regardless of the size of the door. “quorra”….not “cora” “kevin flynn” sat for so many years…….”THE ONLY WAY TO WIN IS TO NOT PLAY THE GAME” he believed he would never see his son again. you can’t buy the excuse because your ridiculous beliefs havn’t put you in hollywood so as to alter awsome movies like “legacy” i could go on but the geeking out of your ” i can’t understand….so it doesn’t make sense” junk makes me wonder why i choose to tell you that you are wrong at all. TRON rocks…..

  4. jstueart September 25, 2011 / 9:59

    It makes me wonder why you bothered writing me at all. Or bothered reading. Lessee, a movie can’t be “bad” if I believe it doesn’t work for me based on established plot techniques and character development–but it is “good” because it just “works” for you–based on nothing but your gut reaction? Sadly, that’s a very convenient logic. Though I’m happy that a movie makes you happy. Everyone has his own tastes. It’s okay that we disagree–but you didn’t tell me why you think it’s such a “great” film; you’ve only told me a few errors I’ve made in references–classic avoidance. And, Chris, it’s not okay that you’re a punk while writing your opinion on anyone’s blog. Civility rocks, troll!

  5. Ryan October 13, 2011 / 9:59

    Tron was a great movie. Before writing why it’s great, let’s look at why people might miss the greatness. First, art is an analogy for Life. In a movie, a lot happens some of which are not part of that analogy. One example, the story contained a great father son relationship that was interrupted and then continued. There wasn’t a large play on how hard it was for the son, if only the father had been there, etc. because that is for another time, another movie, another piece of art. No art can cover everything, this art covered just one major topic.

    This movie was about one thing. The User. For a visual, look at the screen shot of the User(son) seen through a disk/all seeing eye. The User is without aim in the beginning, but there is one key element present. He is not a program. He is not dead. When he weaves in and out of cars and speeds by the policeman, he is unconstrained by the rules that govern most people(programs) in the real world. Art is an analogy for Life. The policeman doesn’t simply speed after him, he turns on his lights first and pauses, then speeds off. Government always symbolizes the governed. People who are programmed follow the programs. People who have free Will impose that will on reality.

    The User enters Tron a boy and leaves a Man in a spiritual sense. The point of the Life (game) is to grow your character through doings. The Game is an analogy where everything is boiled down to its essence. The minimalist world, and the minimalist music. In many movies the protagonist is a hero. In more recent times many movies are making them nobodies that become somebodies. The point is not to watch a hero be a hero. It’s to understand the transformation from child to man(or woman). The movie goes from the boy to the adult child so that the view sees he is still a child. The growth did not take place before the movie, it takes place during the movie, which is why there is less “character development”. The most important transformation being when he disobeys the father and goes into the Tron city. There’s a decent amount of symbolism if you look.

    The father has one roll in this movie. He provides the conditions for his son to bloom. When he’s talking to him at bed time, when he creates Tron or a world for his son to grow up in (since he didn’t grow up in the real world), and later when he who knows Tron better than anyone believes in and follows his son when his son is stepping to the plate. In the end the son holds his disk above his head as the father protects him, and he goes back into reality. Of course the son has the fathers disk and can bring him back later. They don’t get into this, because it’s not the point. There’s only one.

    The father also grows. He learns what perfect means. He also snaps at his son in the game “You’re messing with my Zen” but quickly regroups and supports his son’s autonomy.

    I love how Kosinski portrayed Quorra. When introduced the viewer was lead to believe she was a man, with her “manly” commanding presence. It’s quickly seen that she’s a woman, but if you miss is, Sam refers to her as a dude, and he voice sounds like a man. Then she’s revealed as a woman in a funky hey-I’m–a-woman-but-you-wouldn’t-have-guessed-it manor. It’s difficult for a director to break sexist barriers without making the woman look feminist. Quorra was a super cute, yet strong woman. Loyal, but never subordinate. Energized, a philosopher (at least read it) and innocent.

    I hope you all get as much out of the movie as I did.

    Cheers

    Ryan

  6. jstueart October 13, 2011 / 9:59

    Thanks, Ryan, for your thoughts. We disagree about this movie. I found the characters to be shadows of what you describe. Had they been as good as you wrote, we would both agree. Unfortunately, they weren’t well-developed and neither was the plot. I didn’t miss its greatness, and people who disagree aren’t “missing” something. 😉 If it was there, we wouldn’t have to find it.

    However, I’m glad that in your opinion it was a great film! I enjoy the discussion.

  7. Frodo Baggins October 16, 2011 / 9:59

    For Bruce Boxleitner, it’s “old partner who still works for firm.”

    Alan Bradley’s conflict with the Board reaffirmed the theme of information control from the first film, created tension by showing us what Sam let become of the company, and foreshadowed TRON’s role as a former ally subjugated and repurposed by a usurper, yet still loyal to the Flynns when push comes to shove. Not bad for “broad strokes.”

    “cameras that just blink off when you shine light at them (note to self when I’m breaking into Microsoft: bring penlight)”

    It’s not a penlight, it’s a high-powered laser. And it works in real life. Just look up CCTV on wikipedia.

    “they have a stack of computer towers and Sam knows just which one to tap into (because his father was the computer genius, ergo the son is a natch)”

    The ENCOM OS that he steals wasn’t stored on one specific tower. They’re all connected. Sam just went to that one because it was far from the door, so people couldn’t see him. And he wasn’t able to break in because of natural genius. His father taught him all about the company, and he visits annually. Plenty of time to learn the security.

    “walking along a handy crane (who leaves these here??)”

    You’re really unfamiliar with the concept of a tower crane? They put them on top of buildings when they’re doing new construction. Maybe they just fixed the big glowing ENCOM sign, who knows? You’re picking at nits.

    “no obstacles means that he could do this more often and doesn’t…. why? No obstacles means no tension. No tension means no possibility for anything else happening.”

    The tension arises from the injustice going on at ENCOM. We want Sam to fix it, and are frustrated that he doesn’t. Inaction in the face of injustice is one of the core conflicts of the film, and it’s set up effectively right here.

    “What does it tell us? He’s a rebel. Does he have a job? A girlfriend? A life? We don’t know.”

    Living in a concrete shed with a sparse fridge and a dog he talks to didn’t make his lifestyle clear enough? Show, not tell.

    “He’s thrown into a GAME, where he doesn’t know what’s going on, and he’s not the least bit thrown. But neither is Cora when she’s brought into the real world either.”

    Flynn told Sam about the Grid all through his childhood. Flynn taught Quorra about the real world for 20 years, and you don’t even see her reactions until minutes after she’d been transported. What were you expecting, the Home Alone face?

    “I don’t buy the “if I fight him, CLU gets stronger” excuse… Though Kevin is a flesh and blood person, and CLU is a program—why they would have to be reintegrated is beyond me. In fact, it seemed beyond them too—-they were going to go into the portal with Kevin and leave CLU behind. So much for integrating.”

    CLU is a uniquely designed program. We see in flashback that his genesis isn’t just Flynn typing some code. He creates a mirror image of himself. It’s never clear to what degree CLU is a copy of his creator, but it’s obvious they’re more closely connected than, say, Alan Bradley and TRON, so why is it so hard to believe that CLU’s functions are effected when Flynn enters the Grid, or that their existence inside the computer is inextricably linked? Flynn could leave CLU on the Grid when he goes to the real world. That was the whole reason he created CLU. But when CLU threatens Quorra and Sam’s escape, Flynn sacrifices himself to stop CLU and ensure their safety. He’s also making a symbolic gesture, accepting that CLU is a part of himself, and sharing the blame for the suffering he has inflicted on the Grid.

    “See Frequency for the same motif done SO much better. Where is the part of the script that builds the father/son relationship?”

    In Frequency, their meeting is presented as a montage with some sappy music, before the film takes a wild left turn into a murder thriller. Legacy’s dialogue clearly defines the Flynns’ mutual tension, disappointment, and ultimate catharsis and forgiveness. Sure, it’s simplified. But you said the dialogue on the train was boring. Do you want more interaction, or less?

    “you can’t thrown in a twist like this without a set up, or more clues…. and certainly you can’t have TRON decide to switch sides in time for the final moment of the battle to knock CLU on his ass. Epic Deus Ex Machina.”

    The use of double disks, Rinzler playing the same role under CLU that TRON did under Flynn, Rinzler sparing Sam because he sees he’s a User, not enough clues? And the allegiance switch happens right after the first time he sees Kevin face-to-face in 20 years, and the first time CLU orders him to kill a User. Seems like the perfect jolt to his system.

    “Humphrey Bogart’s character was much more complex”

    He was the main character. If you play up a moral conflict in a campy caricature we met minutes ago, no one would care.

    “Zen in the face of the inevitable would have been a great sequel… here it makes Kevin Flynn look like a jerk.”

    That’s the point. He is being a jerk. When you fuck up the world, you can’t fix it by doing nothing. You have to take responsibility for your mistakes and actively repair them. Which, in the climax, is what he finally does.

    “Hey, three good characters are out in the world running around causing mischief, but I, as the big villain, am going to give a motivational speech to my Army….of “programmed” soldiers who don’t need motivation: they have programming. I could lose everything if they beat me to the portal, or if they cause mischief, but I’m oblivious because I’m doing EPIC monologuing…”

    He sent Rinzler to find the fugitives, even after he was told they were dead. Of course the soldiers don’t NEED to be motivated. CLU is neurotic. He craves approval. Like all dictators, he wants his people to love him, even if he has to beat in into them. It makes perfect sense for his character, and the scene echos the TV clip of Flynn’s speech about the new frontier, making it clear that CLU’s evil is a direct result of Flynn’s flaws.

    “If the goal was to rescue the Dad, the movie actually fails. Sam doesn’t seem to mind; he just lets his dad go.”

    Gee, you don’t suppose that might have some metaphorical significance? The passing of the torch from one generation to another? The transition from depending on our parents to becoming self-sufficient adults? The concept of… Legacy?

    “How does a USER have blood in the game? How does a suckling pig end up in the game? How does a flesh and blood person survive inside a digital world without FOOD? Water?”

    In the computer, a User is a virtual manifestation of their physical self, hence the blood. The food is just a simulation. It nourishes them no more than Cypher’s steak in The Matrix. They really live off that glowy energy-water, as established in the first TRON. If you were stuck in a computer for 20 years, you’d code some virtual food to break the monotony, too.

    “There’s no WORLD-BUILDING this time, not like they did with TRON.”

    Flynn visually fixing Quorra’s code to regrow her arm? CLU repurposing Flynn’s disk to become real? A demonstration of how the digital armor is applied? A new disk war court? A broader sense of life in the digital city? A new form of AI? Not enough for you?

    “So, at the end, Sam, upon coming back into the real world, does what should have been done at the Beginning of Sam’s orphaning: make Bruce Boxleitner CEO of the company. Why wasn’t he?”

    Kevin Flynn had a God complex. Who does he create to run the Grid when he’s away? An exact copy of himself. See how well that turned out. Cooperation and delegation, rather than expecting everything from yourself, is a good lesson and a key aspect of computer science. The myth of the lone genius propagated so much in the media (not least by the first TRON), is here dispelled as egocentric and unworkable. Young Kevin Flynn was a hotshot braggart, pissed that someone stole HIS ideas, and determined to regain ownership. Old Kevin Flynn is humbled by his past folly. He had made it to the top and, rather making the system more egalitarian, made himself the new Master Control, becoming the very thing he hated. He finally redeems himself by gives up his ego. He hands his disk to Quorra, recognizing that the Other, this alien intelligence that he didn’t create, is more important than his own life, and “removes himself from the equation.” Sam has learned from his father’s mistakes and redemption. He no longer remains a passive outsider, and takes responsibility for ENCOM, his Legacy. But rather than styling himself the new ruler, he entrusts it to another, who is better suited to the job anyway. If the characters had everything figured out at the start, how could they learn and grow?

  8. jstueart October 16, 2011 / 9:59

    Friends of TRON, or TRONlodytes, you don’t seem to understand that “explaining” a film to me will not make it a better film, or make me like it any more. Do you really think, Frodo et al, that after your explanations about what I’m missing that I’m going to hit my palm to my forehead and say, “Golly! After that explanation, I LOVE the film!”

    I don’t mind discussion. I don’t mind questions. But coming onto the blog and saying I’m de facto wrong because I don’t “get it” is arrogant. Get your own damn blog and have your own damn reviews. If you come on here, engage me by asking me questions and positing some probabilities–start a discussion, not a monologue. (I wasn’t trying to start a discussion about the film when I reviewed it. I was just stating how my experience went—that is a review.)

    Understand that I didn’t just wake up one morning into the world of story and science fiction; I actually had points with evidence and reason based on plot structure—but no, no form of intelligent conversation will convince you that your film TRON wasn’t the bees knees. Fine, respect that it isn’t gonna happen here either–I’m not going to be convinced by weak evidence. At least if you had a decent argument, I might be pulled towards yours—but you haven’t done anything but force yourself to come up with weak counterpoints. (Do you know what WORLDBUILDING is? No, you don’t–else you wouldn’t have offered those feeble examples as worldbuilding)

    Explaining how the bad plot machine works in its intricate and clumsy way in this movie just makes me more convinced I pegged this movie right. You didn’t redeem it—which should have been your goal— you merely damned it with ardent devotion and worshipful specificity.

    • Frodo Baggins October 18, 2011 / 9:59

      TRONlodytes. Cute.🙂 I wouldn’t go that far. I certainly don’t hold it up with Star Wars, Casablanca, The Matrix, or True Grit (Frequency and Hook, on the other hand…), and Chris Pine is easily better than Hedlund. But the weakness of some of your specific arguments bugged me. I’ll add that if you phrase much of your critiques as questions and open a comments section, you ipso facto invite discussion.

      Your qualms with the opening sequence were ill-informed. Lasers CAN disable cameras, computer towers DO work that way, a crane WOULD make sense there. That’s why I disputed them, not to make you like the movie.

      You praise the world-building of TRON, yet the only questions you lambast Legacy for ignoring already had answers. Legacy doesn’t completely re-envision the digital world in keeping with modern advances, which I guess is what you wanted. Fair enough, I guess this is one of those things that comes down to personal preference. But I will say that if Legacy tried to interpret the modern Information Age the way TRON interpreted the early 80s, it couldn’t have retained the atmosphere or visual stye of its predecessor. The original premise (Star Wars in a computer) was vaguely defined, relying on the public’s shaky grasp of computers and functioning more as a metaphor than as science fiction. There wasn’t much the sequel could add or change while staying faithful. Look at what happened to the Matrix sequels: they tried switching up the rules, and it went totally off the rails. Legacy takes a subtler approach, not building a world per se, but refining and clarifying the TRONverse: Flynn editing Quorra’s code shows more precisely how a User controls the digital world (in TRON, he just seems like a wizard), and the nature of the Programs’ bodies; CLU’s use of Flynn’s disk further defines what it is, what it can do, and the rules of digitization; more scenes in the city give a broader context for the Programs’ lives outside the games, of which there was barely a hint in the original; seeing the digital armor applied provides a better physical conception of the visuals; A non-human-created Program extends the possibilites of the digital world and explores the nature of AI more fully than “programs are people with their creators’ faces;” another refinement I didn’t mention before is a clearer geography. It’s hard to picture the relative location of scenes in TRON, but a casual viewer of Legacy could sketch out where Flynn’s stronghold, the city, the train, and the Portal are. What’s more central to world-building than arranging the world itself? You reject CLU’s unique attachment Flynn without demonstrating any conflict with the established canon of TRON. Do you “not buy” that Sauron’s life is tied to the Ring, either? Not that the world-building here has anything on Lord of the Rings. I don’t even dispute that it’s weak. But I maintain that its limitations are in keeping with the original.

      “Explaining how the bad plot machine works in its intricate and clumsy way in this movie makes me more convinced I pegged this movie right.”
      Does it? Because it sounds like you’re criticizing the plot for things you just ignored: no sense of Sam’s personal life, despite the manifold clues in his home; didn’t get why Bradley wasn’t running the company or why Flynn didn’t escape at the end, though those points were set up by Flynn’s character flaws and redemption; treated Flynn’s perceived jerkiness as unintentional, when it was central to his character (and really, wasn’t he even jerkier in the first one?). You might as well complain that Michael Corleone seemed like a jerk at the end of Godfather Part II. When you go so far as to say:
      “something a bit ironic, “Journey Without a Goal”–the tantric wisdom of Buddha… which could be a summation of this movie.”
      I have to conclude that, sorry, you really did miss something fundamental. That wasn’t irony, it was SUPPOSED to be a summation of the movie! Flynn’s monomaniacal pursuit of the goal of a perfect world where he controlled everything created a monster and kept him from what he loved most. Sam’s goal, of having things back the way they were when he was a kid, was also unattainable. In the end, they both come to accept that personal desire isn’t the most important thing in the world, and that they needed to consider their connection and responsibility to others. My biggest complaint about the film was that they overemphasized the theme. But apparently, not enough.

      Feel free to dislike the movie. There’s plenty in it to criticize. Just examine it more closely first. Even better: watch TRON and this back to back. “Fond memories” go a long way toward building up an experience. It was more groundbreaking and impressive than the sequel could hope to be, by virtue of being a fresh concept at the time. But seen together, you might find there isn’t as big a gap in quality as you thought.

  9. jstueart October 18, 2011 / 9:59

    Frodo, here’s the opening problem with your premise: I was never inviting discussion–but I welcome it if it comes; this isn’t discussion, it’s monologuing. You’re just “correcting” me in a condescending tone. I don’t know why you feel like I want to keep discussing this bad movie. But here you are, back again, trying hard to prove your points with more superfluous evidence mounted on shaky structures. I’m thrilled.

    I examined the movie closely–thank you. I didn’t come up with what you came up with. We have different opinions. Stop evangelizing your point of view. I don’t need to examine Legacy any more. And I won’t. Further discussion will be closed. End of line.

  10. jstueart October 19, 2011 / 9:59

    Reluctantly, I’ll answer you. I did have my post above–which still stands. But let me answer your specific grievances. See your post has turned into a review of my review, and not a review of the movie. You’re much more enthused about cutting down a critic than about praising your idol.

    Alas, I’m easier to defend than that movie.

    “Your qualms….were ill-informed.” LOL. I’m not caring about being “informed” about what lasers, computer towers and cranes can do, buddy. I’m concerned with how easy, and how silly the opening is. Lasers, computer towers, cranes–it doesn’t matter. If it were THAT easy to do all that he did, anyone could break in. And why didn’t his company prepare for this? You’d think they had better security. But my main point here is a plot one: it strains credibility up front. I don’t believe this is a real secure building. I dont’ believe of seventy hundred computer towers, Sam could go up to one of them and blip–everything’s done. Therefore I don’t believe Sam. Credibility gap. And, sorry, showing me the contents of Sam’s house is not enough to know his character, even with (laugh) “manifold clues”. Character is shown through action, not a quick pan through an apartment, and I’ve already said that his opening actions strained credibility too far. Everything’s easy for Sam. No complications, especially none where they should be for this plot. Sam is cardboard. He is nothing. He is not round at all.

    “There wasn’t much the sequel could add while remaining faithful.” Says who? You? Geesh. You’re making excuses for bad writing and bad world-building. Saying, “gosh, there’s not much they could do”…. just tries to excuse lack of creativity and brilliance in re-imagining TRON as they purported to do by updating it in the first place. What you call “subtle reworking” of the Tronverse by these writers is really “I can’t come up with anything else.” As I said, they just relied on Tron as backdrop for a stupid plot. These are unimaginative writers handed a brilliant first movie, challenged to make a second one, and failing. Don’t praise mediocrity and excuse it for not trying. “I would have done my research paper but I couldn’t find anything on technology in the library.” Yeah… right. There are brilliant writers I know who could have done much more with this—some of them I know personally—and, you know, given a weekend, I could have come up with a better plot. And I’m not that brilliant. This is shoddy work. The fact that you’re excusing it shows that you know it’s shoddy. It’s shameful to the writers that you don’t even believe they could have done “A” level work with what they were given. And it’s shameful to other brilliant writers to say that it can’t be done.

    Journey without a goal’s irony, my friend, is that this movie is a journey without a goal–not that Flynn’s life was without a goal. His driftwood life was already apparent. It doesn’t make for good plot for anyone.

    There was no reason Bradley wasn’t running the company, and no reason that he was suddenly going to run the company at the end. See Batman Begins for a better way for Lucius Fox to have been demoted and then for Lucius Fox to rise to run the company. That had logic and reason behind it. A viewer could see how and why these things happened. There’s no rhyme or reason for Bradley to have to wait for cardboard Sam to help him run the company….

    Flynn’s escape seemed to belie his knowledge that he and CLU would have to reintegrate. If he knew that he couldn’t leave without re-integrating, why run? It was just to provide plot which dissolved in the last few minutes.

    Go ahead and defend a bad movie, defend bad writers by saying “they did the best they could”. Love mediocrity. Go for it. It makes your taste look cheap. But don’t call a reviewer ignorant for holding writers and producers to industry standards of excellence. And don’t criticize someone for wanting actual story. There are good movies being made from worse material. And movie critics use the same language, same standards. I can understand if their interpretation based on similar standards and language gives them a different take. But if you can’t understand where we’re coming from, or what language movie critics use, or you can only defend your choice of excellence by lowering the bar for the writers, well, don’t bother passing judgment on my review.

    • Gene6 January 9, 2012 / 9:59

      You gotta be a MAC user. Seriously..

      • jstueart January 9, 2012 / 9:59

        Smile. I don’t know what said that about my response, but okay. 🙂

  11. Gene6 January 9, 2012 / 9:59

    I was one of the “Geeks” who saw TRON as many times as I could afford at the time. In fact I was one of the select few geeks that saw the LAST showing of 70mm TRON. We had a “Meeting” in the parking lot to discuss how our lives were OVER now that Tron would never been seen in 70mm ever again. ..sigh..

    So I PAY to see Tron Legacy. On a fateful trip to Peru (Amazon Forest) I read every single word in the Wired Magazine “Tron” issue. And YES I got the feeling that Tron Legacy was going to SUCK!

    Oh boy was I Pissed off after dragging my “Less than” Uber-Geeks to see Tron Legacy. The shot where Sam was “Digitized” into the computer? A grey simple “Woosh”? I mean WTF? Where was the “Computer” BLASTING every BIT into oblivion part? I remember seeing the same scene in TRON? At least I remember seeing in Tron? (and so Tron Legacy circled the toilet bowl for me) Plus I seriously wanted to know how Kevin moved a machine that needed a 30ft blast door into his Urban arcade? Yea seriously.. I’d buy the whole thing if there was a door to an underground cyclotron or something??

    Months later I find myself watching Tron Legacy on Pay Cable. (actually satellite) After about the 10th time watching this pig something that has NEVER happened to me before happened. I started to actually LIKE this movie. Yea seriously dude!

    As if uncle Walt had just finished putting in the last of my “Disney” TM brainwashing module. BING! I ponied up for the Deluxe Blue Ray “Legacy” and both the Soundtrack and it’s Sampled version. (Now how do I get the music into my new HitMan 801?)

    All that was said about how much “Legacy” totally missed the boat is 100% true. Plus they did the latest thing. (see Terminator Salvation) They more or less took the first movie and did the exact movie again. Even swapped out Dialog. Horrible!

    And again.. Tron Legacy seems to be MORE than it’s hacked up carcass of blown opportunities. At a place where I can NOT exactly put my finger on.. I have done a 180 on this movie.

    This is the FIRST TIME this has ever happened to me. Scary folks!

    I can’t help but ask myself.. If I had made Tron Legacy? Fixed everything that I hated. Reshot every scene until “Legacy” was the Incredible movie I wanted it to be! Would my TRON lose whatever deep magic that is obviously in Kosinsky’s version?

    ..sigh.. Now I’m off to read up on the “Journey without a goal!” Must have a killer ending huh?

  12. jstueart January 9, 2012 / 9:59

    Thanks Gene6. Not sure about the MAC comment, but your story is interesting. I’d love to see HOW your mind was changed. What won you over?

  13. Gene6 January 13, 2012 / 9:59

    Beats the heak out of me!

    As I wrote before.. I’ve never had this happen before. When I “HATE” a movie.. I continue to hate it. And most likely find new reasons to hate it. (Joss Whedon Firefly – Serenity I hate more than ever!)

    Although I can’t name any movies that I have fallen out of love with. (I know there has to be some)..?

    Makes me wonder if anybody else has had the same “Tron” experience that I had?

    Thanks – GENE

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